Rae accuses Tories of 'dirty tricks' in robocall scandal
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said he has "no doubt" that misleading phone calls to voters during the last federal election contributed to the defeat of some of his party's candidates, and accused the Conservatives of "dirty tricks" to suppress Liberal and NDP votes.
Speaking to reporters in Toronto Saturday, Rae said the Liberals now have evidence that voters in up to 27 ridings received automated calls on election day instructing them to go to the incorrect polling station.
"These are not just isolated incidents," Rae said, pointing to what he calls a "troubling pattern" of voter suppression and intimidation.
If there is enough evidence of systemic voter deception, the Liberals will call for by-elections in affected ridings and the party will consider legal action, Rae said.
Elections Canada and police are looking into reports of "robocalls" in as many as 18 ridings. Rae is calling for a full investigation and will ask for an emergency debate in Parliament on Monday.
Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel also called on Elections Canada and the RCMP to investigate the calls, "so this doesn't happen again." The NDP claims its candidates may have been targeted in up to three dozen ridings.
Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro joined calls for a thorough probe Saturday, saying his own campaign in Peterborough was a target of similar "dirty tricks" and aggressive phone calls leading up to the May 2, 2011 election.
Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told CTV News Channel his Conservative supporters and campaign office volunteers were harassed with "aggressive" phone calls, often late at night.
He denied trying to deflect blame from the Conservatives with the revelation. He said he didn't publicly complain about the calls before the ‘robocall' scandal broke out because he didn't know the problem was so widespread. He said he initially thought the harassing calls were just another hazard of political campaigning.
Del Mastro said he will now be forwarding information about abusive phone calls in his riding to Elections Canada.
Rae maintained that Conservatives were trying to manipulate votes in ridings where races were tight.
He accused Harper, who has denied any knowledge of the phony calls, of creating "a culture of antagonism" that encourages "dirty tricks."
"Dirty tricks are not permissible at any time," Rae said while campaigning with the Liberal candidate who is running in the upcoming by-election in the Toronto-Danforth riding.
The automated calls have been traced to Racknine Inc., an Edmonton-based company that worked for the Conservative Party's national campaign and at least nine other Conservative candidates, including the prime minister.
While the Conservative Party has denied any involvement, some media reports linked a 23-year-old Tory staffer, Michael Sona, to robocalls made in Guelph. Although there is no evidence Sona was behind the calls, he resigned from the office of Toronto-area MP Eve Adams on Thursday night.
The notion that one rogue Tory is responsible for "thousands" of robocalls in various ridings "defies all credibility," Rae said.
"This could not have been done by one person," he said, calling on all members of the Conservative Party -- "including the prime minister" -- who have information about the calls' origins to come forward.
An example of ‘robocall'-related complaints lodged with Elections Canada was obtained by The Canadian Press, in which a Waterloo, Ont. voter said she had received a phone call instructing her to vote at the wrong polling station.
Unlike similar calls made in nearby Guelph, documents show the Conservatives "belatedly admitted that they were responsible for the call, describing it as an error."
Responding to the complaint, Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews said the Conservatives took responsibility for the misleading call and chalked it up to an innocuous error.
Elections Canada dropped the Waterloo investigation after the voter said she didn't want to explore the incident further.